[A note from MeanMesa to the citizens of Ukraine: Your visitorship to this blog is appreciated. Last week -- for the first time -- Short Current Essays had more visitors from Ukraine than from China! No matter how dark the grey Kiev dawns may seem in the days to come, be confident that the rest of the world, at least, THIS part of the rest of the world, is "tuned in" and sympathetic with what you are trying to achieve.]
Please Pass My Blindfold
Americans, apparently doomed to suffer perpetually from a failed public education system, are having a hard time "conceptualizing" what's going on in Ukraine. The confusion is probably understandable, but it is also unnecessary, dangerous and rather arrogant.
Here in the United States the roughly 15% of folks who actually try to make sense of the mangled corporate "news" we receive began to be interested in Ukrainian events around the time of the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution. But even then, the "image of understanding" inhabiting the background of American minds was still embarrassingly littered with ancient scenes of Soviet tanks in 1956 Hungary, stopping before driving over soup bowls [With rumors spreading of an American invasion, the inverted soup bowls appeared to be anti-tank mines.] placed in the Budapest streets by freedom fighters.
The "low energy" American perception of the Orange Revolution was a limited one because this country remains partially blinded, still mired in the although tattered, yet remarkably durable remnants of the US anti-Soviet Cold War propaganda. When Orange Revolution supporters massed in the streets, most Americans -- without any particular conscious intention of doing so -- erroneously painted with their own overly "broad brushes" a simplified picture of it being another rebellion against Stalinist Russia and left it there.
By adopting this conveniently fickle understanding, these Americans "missed the point" of the Orange Revolution, at least, say, 90% of "the point." Unhappily, a large portion of them are still missing 90% of "that point," but now, happily, for a growing number a more accurate interpretation of events in Ukraine seems to be slowly replacing that initial misperception. [If you are suspicious that you, yourself, might be either "in" or "at the edge" of this 90% "missing the point" crowd, visit WIKI Orange Revolution here.]
Modern events in Ukraine -- and everywhere else on the planet -- are far too complex for the old Cold War, black and white, talking point explanations. It not only leaves issues meriting immediate attention obscured, but it also clouds opportunities which may be present but overlooked amid the inherent confusion of the mindless "one size fits all" mind set.
Through all the fog of this media bumbling, unavoidable similarities between historic and contemporary landmarks in the paths of both the United States and Ukraine emerge. Current positions perched on the respective time scales may differ by date, but a comparison of both nations' obstacles contains an important message.
No matter how flimsy and incongruous this claim of similarities might seem at first blush, spend a few minutes while this old blogger tries to assist in "making the connections."
Fears Divide Us
And not innocently, either.
Like Ukraine, the United States population has material, existential problems but not unsolvable ones. The current dilemma does not stem directly from the actual problems so much as from the perception of them. This faltering perception is not limited to the problems themselves, either. It extends to issues of cause ["blame"] and remedy. It is populated by artificially manipulated ghosts of ideology, classism, race and religion, but, as far as "ghosts" go, remarkably durable ones.
Based on what we can discern from the sketchy news available, East Ukraine holds a majority populated by folks eager to retain the close ties with the Russian Federation. This is understandable. The remnants of the Soviet industries -- and jobs -- there rely on sustaining traditional commercial and economic ties with the old colonial power. No one wants to suddenly bolt from what is presently working, albeit not particularly well by modern metrics, in favor of admittedly frightening prospects of the "privatizing and austerity crazed" EU nations.
Here in the US we have our own "East Ukraine" -- we call it, variously, "the South" or "the red states." Considered as a voting bloc, the attitudes of its constituencies are full of contradictions, but just as Ukraine, they are more or less "understandable ones."
At this moment in the US everything seems to be uncomfortably "fluid" for those among us who continue to suffer the wounds of 2008. The old economy of even a decade ago reveals more of its inescapable, self-destructive, unsustainable nature every day. Any proposal for a replacement for that old economy remains purposely undefined by the manipulators of the common thought who seem to offer our desolate comrades only insecurity, uncertainty and risk without the prospect of any reward.
In the US things cannot continue as they are unfolding now, but the nation cannot, alternatively, chose any sort of commonly [or comfortably...] perceived "palliative retrograde," either. It is not this or that political ideology foisting these fearful developments on voters; it is, instead, an essentially inevitable reality.
An old rock song here contained the rhetorical question: "Where do I go, now that I've gone too far?"
We can look back to see our own shortfalls which have produced the conditions of this immediate day, but that never means that simply by detecting and defining them, we can somehow escape the very material consequences of those previous issues of mistake or neglect.
More Lamentations or More Bravery?
MeanMesa suspects that every possible complaint referring to our US situation has already been made, repeated, expounded, researched and argued by this time, and that same suspicion suggests that the contemporary popular mood in Ukraine is in about the same state. Both nations are historically unsettled.
It is, indeed, challenging to look to future solutions while still bruised and bleeding from such recent and constant injuries. In the moment -- in both Ukraine and US -- there are manifold "reasons" for enmity, distrust and, worse, hopelessness, but these all amount exclusively to vulnerabilities which inspire very little and justify only more despair. Those "reasons" offer nothing more comforting than a cup of lukewarm charity soup -- too little and too dilute -- on a cold morning. They barely offer us any more than enough energy for another day of shivering.
These fears of ours derive from a lack of vision.
And, that vision requires some details. Resistance and opposition are necessary components, abrasives, to lubricate the change required in both places, but they are temporary accomplishments. Without a more durable vision, these become no more that impressive "flash bulbs" illuminating injustice but never rectifying it, that is, never effecting permanent changes and solutions which can actually work out well in the long term.
MeanMesa has some ideas which might be applied to the crisis in both Ukraine and the United States. These will be forthcoming in future -- near future -- posts on this subject.
In the meantime, stay warm, stay safe and stay close to your ideals.